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cosmic rendezvous

Adapted from : from the masters by Rabbi Yossi Marcus[1]


"And Yaakov sent messengers before him to Eisav his brother…"

It is known that Yaakov stems from the composed world of Tikkun, while Eisav stems from the chaotic and intense world of Tohu (Arizal).

The lights of Tohu transcend those of Tikkun. Their intensity causes their vessels to shatter. Hence the fallen sparks of Tohu, which manifest in such lowly phenomena as the personality of the wicked Eisav. In his source, Eisav transcends Yaakov. He is the first-born. Hence, Yaakov sent messengers before him— literally: to a place that was “before” and beyond Yaakov, the world of Tohu.

Yaakov thought that the earthly Eisav had already been realigned with his source; that the intense energy of Tohu had been redirected from a passion for self-indulgence toward a passion for the Divine. He therefore sent messengers to Eisav, to draw upon himself the lofty lights of Tohu and assimilate them into the composed world of Tikkun.

The message Yaakov sent with his messengers—who were actual angels—was that through his years of working with Lavan, he had fully developed his world, the world of Tikkun.

He had been merely a “sojouner” with Lavan, a “stranger,” aloof and estranged from the trap of an earthly consciousness, and was therefore able to perform the 613 mitzvos. He thereby elevated the resources of Lavan and brought made them “dwellings” for the light of holiness.

He was now a suitable vessel for the light of Tohu. As the Zohar declares (2:155a): Blessing does not dwell in an empty place… Now that Yaakov’s place was fully cultivated, the blessing of Tohu could dwell in him. He was ready for a monumental, cosmic event: the unification of Tohu and Tikkun.

He was ready for the Messianic era, when the world would reach its perfection and ultimate purpose. Hence the Midrash’s (BR 75:6) enigmatic comment on Yaakov’s words, and I gained ox and donkey—“the donkey refers to King Moshiach, as it is written, a poor man riding on a donkey (Zachariah 9:9).”[1] Yaakov was living in a messianic reality.

And the messengers returned to Yaakov saying, “We came to your brother Eisav and behold he is coming towards you, four hundred men in his company.

The messengers were saying to their master: Yes, from your part the unification of Tohu and Tikkun can be achieved. But alas, your brother Eisav remains undevelped. How, then, can he share with you the light of his source, while he remains trapped in its earthly manifestation?

To support their assertion, the messengers referred to the 400 men in Eisav’s company. The root of these 400 men was the 400 silver shekels that Avraham had paid to Ephron for the Cave of Machpelah. While in the hands of Avraham, these coins reflected the “400 worlds of longing” that the righteous are destined to inherit. Their transfer to the hands of Ephron was an investment of holiness into the mundane for the purpose of retrieving them in the Messianic era when “death will be swallowed forever” and G-d “will remove the spirit of impurity from the earth.” Until their retrieval, the coins reflect the “400 courts of harsh judgment.”[2]

Yaakov was aware of the fact that Eisav was accompanied by 400 men. But he assumed they were the personifications of the 400 worlds of longing; he was informed by his messengers that they were in fact the embodiment of the 400 courts of harsh judgment (Vayishlach 5743).

And he split his camp into two…

When Yaakov realized that he would not be receiving the light of Tohu through Eisav, he took measures to elicit the light of Tohu on his own. (In this way he would also be protected from the dangers of the physical Eisav.)

These measures would have to mirror the world of Tohu. His first measure therefore was to split his camp into two, the number associated with Tohu. Tikkun, by contrast, is characterized by the number three.

The sefiros of Tohu exist in two separate realms: the right and the left. Each sefirah exists independent of the other, whereas in Tikkun each sefirah is a conglomerate of all the others. This conglomeration is not possible in Tohu, since the vessels of Tohu are too small to contain opposites. Kindness, in Tohu, is pure and unrestrained kindness. The same for severity, and so on—like a narrow mind that cannot accommodate two opposing concepts. If it is inclined toward merit, it will be unable to see judgment. If it is inclined to judge, it will see no room for merit. It can find merit or judgment, right or left, but never both at once. This is the world of Tohu, the world of two.

But in Tikkun, the right and the left are harmonized into a third realm. Even in judgment there can be a thought toward merit. For in Tikkun the light is less intense and the vessels more expansive. The expanded vessel allows for the coexistence of opposing views—like an expanded mind that can accommodate opposites. This is the world of Tikkun, the world of three.

(The world of Tikkun is conceived of as three realms: right and left, and the center realm, which combines the other two. Hence the Jewish people, who stem from the world of Tikkun, say, Holy, holy, holy!—three times. Similarly, G-d says of them that they are a nation of “segulah”—literally translated as “special”—which alludes to the Hebrew vowel segol (e as in chessed), which is represented by three dots in an upside-down triangle.)

In order to elicit the infinite light of Tohu, Yaakov split his camp in two, mirroring the two-dimensional world of Tohu.

And he took from what he had accumulated [to use as] a gift for Eisav his brother, two hundred she-goats…

The word the Torah uses for gift, is mincha, the same word used to describe Hevel’s sacrifice, And G-d turned to Hevel and his mincha (Gen. 4:4). On the mystical level, Yaakov’s gifts to Eisav were also sacrifices, like those offered in the Holy Temple. But because these sacrifices were meant to elicit the lights of Tohu, they did not need to conform to the conventional method of the sacrifices described in the Torah. For the rules of the Torah apply in the world of Tikkun alone; Tohu is not restricted by these laws.

Hence Yaakov’s sacrifices consisted of live animals, whereas those of the Torah are performed with slaughtered animals. (The slaughtering itself is not part of the sacrificial service as evidenced by the fact that even a non-priest can perform the slaughtering (Berachos 31b).)  Similarly, some of the animals he sent were not kosher, namely camels, whereas Torah sacrifices consist of kosher animals only.

For Tohu exists beyond the laws of the Torah, just as in the future when the pig will become kosher[3]; when the infinite light is revealed, the pig will be capable of elevation, unlike now, in the world of Tikkun.

In this way Yaakov prepared himself to elicit the lights of Tohu through his meeting with Eisav. Indeed when they met, Yaakov bowed before Eisav, who then hugged and kissed Yaakov. The two brothers cried tears of joy. All of this is a description of the unification of Tohu and Tikkun that took place then, the reunion of two brothers who had been estranged for a time.


It is known that Yaakov is Tiferes, beauty. True beauty is produced by the blending of varied colors. Yaakov, then, represents harmony, the unification of opposites (see previous essay).

(Thus when Yaakov brings wine to his father, he mixes water into the wine (Zohar 3:189a). Wine represents a fiery yearning for transcendence, ratzo. Water, which flows downward, represents a downward flow, shov. Yaakov, harmony, combines these two opposing movements in a perfect balance. Hence one of the musical notes on the phrase he brought him wine (Gen. 27:25) is a “double note” (mercha kefula on the word lo), alluding to the ability of Yaakov to unite two opposing forces.)       

[Thus it is Yaakov who effects the unification of Tohu and Tikkun [on the root level], paving the way for his descendants, opening the channels for them to effect the elevation of the seventy nations and the fallen sparks of Tohu throughout history.]

Indeed through the exiles and worship of his descendants the elevation of the sparks has already been achieved [as of the year 5752 (1991)]. (That the Messianic era had not yet commenced is an inexplicable phenomenon.)

The Divine worship that we engage in now is no longer for the sake of elevating the sparks. This is in the past. Today we seek to effect the actual revelation of the Messianic reality in the physical world. May we merit it today (Vayishlach 5752 p. 163).

& [Adapted and summarized by Rabbi Yosef Marcus from Torah Ohr, Vayishlach.]

[1] The Messianic redemption hinges upon the refinement and elevation of the entire world, the seventy nations. This is achieved by the exile of the Jewish people throughout the world. The forerunner of all exiles took place in Egypt, as explained by Arizal in his Likutei Torah (parshas Teitzei).) Although all of this had yet to have happened, Yaakov still thought the Messianic era was at hand. He thought that the elevation of the nations could be achieved through the elevation of their “fathers,” Yishmael and Eisav. (At times the nations are numbered at seventy and at times they are numbered at seventy-two. The seventy-two count includes the fathers of the nations. See Sefer Haarachim Chabad, entry Umos Haolam p. 326-7.) Yaakov had already elevated the realm of Lavan, who represents corrupt kindness and is therefore equal to Yishmael, who is corrupt kindness as well. He thought that Eisav, corrupt Gevurah, had already been elevated and therefore expected the redemption (Vayishlach 5747).

[2] See Zohar 1:123b, 3:128b and 288a.

[3] See Shelah on Chayei Sarah; Midrash Talpios in the name of Bachya.

[1] From a discourse of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "the Alter Rebbe."



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